|Sunday, January 16, 2000,
Endemic problems defying solution
Fighting menace of tobacco
method of input collection
January 16, 1925
Endemic problems defying
AS India enters the third millennium it is good to ask ourselves: what is wrong with us and what is keeping us back? There are so many problems bedevilling India, and the foremost of them is the law and order situation. Nothing illustrates this aspect better than the recent hijacking incident which came as the parting kick of the second millennium to India.
India has been described as a soft state but the truth is that it is not only a soft but also a weak state. The socio-political structure is such that the Central and the state governments are mostly political compromises on communal, caste and group considerations. Consequently, the administration also falls in this pattern. Postings are done on considerations other than merit, corruption is winked at and lethargy ignored. In short, accountability is lacking in every branch of administration both at the ministerial and administrative levels. The hijacking of IC-814 was the most recent example to illustrate these afflictions. The authorities at Amritsar airport were not given proper directives to immobilise the aircraft by putting across the runway a couple of trucks. Once the plane took off and eventually landed at Kandahar, India lost all leverage and the release of three notorious militants for the safety of passengers became inevitable.
Within 48 hours of the hijacking, relatives of hostages were making nosy protests, with placards demanding the release of the militants. One of the reasons for not immobilising the hijacked plane at Amritsar was that there would have been loss of life either due to the hijackers getting desperate or if a commando raid had been ordered. But then passengers had been killed both by hijackers as well as by commandos elsewhere in the world, and the people in those countries did not become hysteric.
At the administrative level the hijacking showed the non-implementation of standing rules and regulations by the various agencies concerned. This is the most crucial failing of administration in India in every walk of life. Whether it is in the matter of tax collections, the enforcement of building regulations, the removal of encroachments, or regulating traffic, to give but a few examples, the rules are neither observed nor enforced. Official apathy and pervasive corruption are responsible for these failings.
Indias economy is not in sound health. Mr Claude Samadja of the World Economic Forum cautioned in December, 1999, that the fiscal deficit was likely to be 6.5 per cent and not 4 per cent as hoped for. Mr Samadja also pointed out the huge drain by subsidies and PSU losses, and advised that not only the first generation of reforms initiated in 1991 should be pushed ahead but also the second generation should be taken up. The Finance Minister himself had revealed in November, 1999, that interest, salary, food and fertiliser subsidies and pension took away the entire revenue of Rs 1,82,000 crore, and Rs 90,000 crore were going to interest payments alone. The fiscal situation can only get worse since we have to incur huge expenditure on equipping the three wings of the armed forces in the light of the Kargil war and for implementing the nuclear doctrine even on a modest scale. In a grim situation like this state governments like Punjab are indulging in deplorable wastage like the supply of free electricity and water to all the farmers in Punjab. Many other states are also indulging in similar subsidies all of which add up to a colossal fiscal burden. Unfortunately these abuses cannot be stopped because of the political compulsions, and the parties in power would resort to anything to get votes in the elections.
The only way out is to bring about constitutional reforms whereby the Centre collects only two or three major direct taxes like income tax, customs and excise and be accountable for the countrys defence, internal security, foreign relations, communications and currency and leave the rest of the administrative responsibility to the states for which they should levy their own taxes. They should look after their own subsidies and administrative expenditure, and not be dependent upon the Centre for bailing them out or periodically writing off their huge loans and overdrafts. This would require major amendments of the Constitution involving the devolution of autonomous powers to the states. But unless the states are made responsible for their upkeep, instead of looking up to the Centre as Mai-Bap, they will never learn their lessons.
Indias population has now exceeded 100 crores, and the current rate of growth is estimated at about 2 per cent. A stage will come when the growth of agricultural production will not be able to cope with the growth of the population, and the Malthusian spectre may stare India in the face. The M.S. Swaminathan Committee report on the population policy has been before the government for about three years but it has not been able to make up its mind to take it up seriously. The proverbial teeming millions of India will eventually set at naught whatever little growth this country records from time to time in the economic field.
Corruption has been pinpointed as one of the worst afflictions of India society and administration. It is sometimes trotted out as a historical phenomenon of India as kings and courtiers and officials at various levels always grabbed whatever they could. But after the British administration was established from the 1860s, there was a semblance of law and order and judicial dispensation. In the initial years after independence India had a fairly clean administration both at the Centre and in the states, but once the governments of Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams came into being from 1967 onwards political corruption became part of society.
There is a recorded report on the nexus between criminals and politicians but nothing has been done to take any follow-up action. This nexus not only continues but also there are MPs and MLAs with a criminal background sitting in Parliament and the state assemblies. Corruption starts at the recruitment level of even police constables and state transport bus drivers and conductors, and no wonder that corruption is all-pervasive. Certain notorious departments like that of Income Tax, the Customs and Excise have become the first choice for young officers competing to join the Civil Services because of the lure of wealth without much effort. How does one end this phenomenon in this country?
Communalism and casteism are in full play particularly after Mr V.P. Singh let loose the Mandal genie on the nation in 1990. There are now caste-based political parties and the various castes and sub-castes bring about further splintering of these parties, and many of them are in power. At the same time, the Dalits who have been at the lowest strata of society since ancient times are still undergoing social disabilities throughout India. The constitutional guarantees are effective only in providing representation in Parliament and legislatures but not in ensuring social equality. Unfortunately, the Hindu reformists, mahants and Shankaracharyas are not bothered about the need for social reformation to get rid of the stigma of untouchability.
Fifty two years after Independence even basic amenities like drinking water, power supply, and unpolluted air are not available to most citizens. In the periodic reports on Human Development, India ranks among the lowest 10 of about 150 countries. Those who have visited some of the East Asian countries which became independent much later than India such as Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have seen much greater development at various levels. Nowhere in the world the Capital of a country has frequent power failures both in summer and winter as it is in Delhi. No other capital city has such wholesale encroachments on roads and streets; so many beggars harassing people at bus stops, traffic junctions, temples, etc; cattle and dogs roaming about obstructing traffic and posing danger to the public, and Ambassador cars of 1950 vintage still plying as taxis. These are just examples, and there are 100 other things to list. All these show a lack of will to improve, to compete with the neighbours if not with the western nations, and bring about a better society. Let us remember that the entire Indian society is responsible for the present malaise which afflicts the nation in every walk of life.
Nehrus idealism gave us IITs,
LET me start with a bland statement that may not go well with the literati: There is nothing wrong with us. We are what we are, conditioned by our past and hopes for the future. There is no need for breast-beating.
When India became free, we had two options before us: One was village self-sufficiency, as advocated by Mahatma Gandhi; the other was the socialistic pattern of society which was the Nehru model. We cheerfully gave up the Gandhi model because our intellectuals, starting with Nehru, were enamoured, as an entire generation was, with socialism. Nehru may have articulated the concept. But he had thousands of middle-class adherents.
It was because of Nehrus idealism that today we have IITs, IIMs, the Hirakuds, the steel plants and a whole host of things. That idealism was right for his time. To run it down in the 1990s is in poor taste. In the 1950s and the couple of decades that followed, we professed to have the scientific temper. And quite rightly so.
We may argue that even then some like C. Rajagopalachari had occasion to complain about the Licence Raj, the baneful influence of the bureaucracy and the wastefulness of public sector units. But it was an experiment that Nehru had embarked on. Let us face it: in part it was a success. But experiments cannot be halted half way through. We tried out the Nehru experiment and if it failed it may be attributed to human frailty. We have learnt from it.
Being what we were in 1947 and given the conditions, political, economic, social we did exactly what we could have done, nothing more, nothing less. Had we chosen any other economic model in 1947-1950 we would surely have been saddled with another set of problems. To moan for what we are today, therefore, is not only silly, but also unproductive.
Thanks to DDT, penicillin and other bio-drugs, we could raise life expectancy from around 27 in 1945 to the present 65 or thereabouts. That brought in its wake a new set of problems.
Because we embarked on a policy of positive support to the under-privileged, we are now confronted with casteism. No matter. What we undertook in the fifties was right for those times. In course of time casteism too will wither on the vine. We need to have patience.
There is no such thing as the perfect vision. We merely try our best, in a given set of circumstances. What we need to have is the courage to continuously correct ourselves as we go ahead. We need to set goals. But we need not be dogmatic about them.
What can we do? I would strongly recommend to our readers a book written by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam with Y.S. Rajan. It is entitled India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium. (Viking 1998). It is full of wisdom. There is no such thing as the correct road map. In life there is always the other road we did not take. Whichever road one takes, one must expect to be confronted with all manner of hurdles: stones, thorns, streams, wild beasts and much else. The point is to strive to overcome them and look for other by-ways to reach our goals. Remember: we once were going round with the begging bowl in our hands. Today we are exporting foodgrains! We were once the laughing stock of the western world as regards our mastery of technology. Today we are at least respected. Another book I would recommend: George Perkovichs Indias Nuclear Bomb.
At any given time we have a choice of plans; the choice is ours. In working for the future everybody has a place: the union government, the state governments, private enterprise and even the individual. They are all inter-dependent; what each sector does has a bearing on what the other can do. The technique is to be willing to make mid-term or quarter-term corrections all the way. Nothing really is impossible. As Wernher von Braun would say: I have learnt to use the word impossible with the greatest caution.
To say that something is wrong with us is to lose hope. There is nothing wrong with us. We have all acted as a result of the various forces focused upon us. We need not be ashamed of what we have been. Everything that was done in the past was with the best of motives. In everything that has happened, there has been an air of inevitability. But having said that we also have a free will. We need to exercise that with dedication and courage.
If the political system does not work, let us amend the system, and not wait for it to collapse. Importantly, let us remember that each one of us, howsoever insignificant, has a role to play. Let us play it with full responsibility and devotion without trying to pass the buck. We can do that and if we do that well enough, we can make even the present system work! Only bad workmen quarrel with their tools.
The fault lies not in the system but in ourselves; that we are underlings. We tend to blame the politicians, the political parties, illiteracy, poverty, casteism, and we feel smug running down anybody and anything in sight: the Laloo Prasad Yadavs, the BJP, the Sangh Parivar, the Congress, the Leftists, and feel we have done our job. We havent.
The time is ripe for self-introspection, to accept that development is a long-term affair, that no major change can be brought about overnight, not even in 50 years, but we must have a vision that is undimmed. The thing to do when one stumbles is to get up, dust off the trousers, and once again move forward. Stumbling is inevitable on the Long March. Think of what Mahatma Gandhi must have felt after the failure of the second civil disobedience movement. Think of what Mao Tse-tung must have felt as he retreated a thousand miles to his hideout only to emerge victorious in the end!
Beating our breasts and wailing is a waste of time. Running down others may give us some temporary satisfaction but that is not going to improve matters. There is a Laloo Prasad Yadav in each of us, as there is a Jayaprakash Narayan.
The answer to our problems, strangely enough, was given several hundred years ago in Kathopanishad, which Swami Vivekananda frequently used to point out:
Utthisthata jagratha prapya
Khsurasya dhara nishita durathya
Durgam pathasthath kavayo vadanti.
Get up! Wake up! Seek the guidance of an
Illumined teacher and realise the Self.
Sharp like a razors edge, the sages say,
Is the path, difficult to traverse.
What held good in the time of Nachiketa holds good in our times as well. It is not a cliche to say that everything begins with us. It is the reality.
The spirit overcomes political
INDIAS freedom from the British rule was, perhaps, the most significant happening of the 20th century in our parts, marred, of course, by the partition of the subcontinent which was as ill-advised as it was traumatic. When the world was shrinking into a small family, Punjab was divided. The people of Punjab never wanted it except of course, a handful of politicians who advocated the pernicious two-nation-theory and those who wished to malign their counterparts with counter claims.
The Punjabis Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs and Christians had learnt to live together in the Punjab of Guru Nanak whose first utterance after his enlightenment was There is no Hindu. There is no Musalman. He was followed by Sufi saints like Sain Bulleh Shah who demolished all differences of caste and creed and helped evolve Punjabi identity in the ambience of mystic lore. No wonder that Sir Khizr Hayat Tiwana (Chief Minister of the undivided Punjab, immediately before Partition. He headed a Unionist Akali-Congress coalition) considered the Muslim League demand for Pakistan as a total disaster for Punjab. In the words of his son Nazar Tiwana:
He always envisaged a united Punjab as a thriving economic unit. He also adhered to the view of a composite Punjabi culture which excluded no one on the basis of religion. He had acquired this attitude not only from the educational experience at Aitchison but the knowledge that there were Sikh and Hindu as well as Muslim branches of the Tiwana tribe. Indeed on one occasion he used the latter fact to deny the two-nation theory to Jinnahs face.
Ever since the Partition of Punjab there has been no end to writings bemoaning the Himalayan mistake of dividing an unmistakably well-knit people, both in East and West Punjab, the creative writers remaining in the forefront. There is agony in the words of a young Pakistan poet when he says:
In the first instance I deplore Iqbals dream.
I accept it not;
The division of the Punjab
I deplore, I deplore.
There is no denying the fact that the diabolic killing of the Muslims in East Punjab and the maniac massacre of Hindus and Sikhs in West Punjab during the communal conflagration at the time of Partition seemed to give the lie to the claims of Punjabi identity and good neighbourliness. Nearly a million persons perished and over 13 million crossed the borders. Over 4 million refugees from West Pakistan crossed into the Punjab and a larger number of Muslims from the Indian side went to Pakistan. (The New Cambridge History of India).
And yet there were oases of hope and faith. Our own village, Dhamial, not far from Rawalpindi Cantonment, is a glorious instance. When the entire Pothoar was a virtual cauldron; mayhem and murder, rape and repine were the order of the day, our Muslim neighbours came to us and promised that as long as we remained in the village, we were their charge but anyone straying outside the four walls of the village, would not be their responsibility. Two headstrong youths who were employed in a nearby ordnance factory, not heeding the warning, left for work early next morning. They never returned. As for the rest of the villagers, no harm came to anyone. Every time the marauders came, beating drums and shouting slogans, they were driven away by our Muslim neighbours.
Eventually when the communal situation worsened beyond their comprehension, the villagers hired trucks and reached their Hindu and Sikh neighbours along with their belongings to the refugee camp in the cantonment without any harm coming to anyone. The story doesnt end here. Returning home, it is said that they removed the doors and window-panes of the houses vacated by the Hindus and Sikhs so that none else could come to stay where their erstwhile neighbours lived. The story doesnt end even here. Not long after Partition, some of us happened to go on pilgrimage to Panja Saheb (Hasan Abdal). We took this opportunity to visit our village. The Muslim neighbours joy knew no bounds. While entertaining the visitors, they hailed the mahajars, their new neighbours, and said: See, what gems we have lost!
This bespeaks, the essential Punjabi spirit, it was there when Qadiryar wrote Puran Bhagat, a Hindu romance along with Miraj Nama based on Ascension of Prophet Mohammad and Roza Namah describing virtues of the travails of fasting. In the words of M Athar Tahir in The Problematics in Qadiryar: Not only is Puran a representative of the Punjabi psyche but is the common hero of all Punjabis; Muslim, Sikh, Hindu. His selection, as the mouthpiece for moral issues has a wider appeal than a figure would from the strictly Arabo-Persian or Sanskrit sources. Qadiryar, through Puran, becomes the citizen of his times.
It was there when Shah Mohammad, a court poet of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, wrote:
Hindus and Muslims, both were living happily,
A curse has fallen upon both,
Never before in Punjab,
A third community had entered.
Commenting upon it, Darshan Singh, writing in Shah Mohammad on Punjabi Identity says:
Thus Sikh psyche or Singh identity meant Punjabi identity, at least Shah Mohammad perceived his contemporary society through this angle. A close study of his text reveals that this was his faith, his conviction and he did not falter in it. For him a Sikh and Punjabi identity were complementary to each other. This is exactly how he has treated the matter in his text.
Similarly J.S Grewal in a paper entitled Punjabi Identity: A Historical Perspective asserts:
A certain degree of pride in the Punjabi language began to be expressed by the creative writers, and this was extended to the region, and eventually to Punjabi identity. Waris Shah, for instance, refers to the Punjab, metaphorically, as the ornament on the forehead of Hind. Ahmad Yar expressed his pride in Punjabi and Punjab quite directly.
It was a disaster dividing the people with this spirit, unmistakably wedded to Punjabiat. It has to be undone sooner or later, the political divide in the Punjab is as unnatural as it is cruel.
To my mind the main challenge of the Punjabis in the next millennium is to undo the menace of Partition, to tie the Punjabi-speaking people together with the silken thread of Punjabiat whether they live in East Punjab, West Punjab or abroad in the UK, the USA or elsewhere. It is to foster in them love of their mother tongue, Punjabi, cultivate in them better understanding and good neighbourliness. It is to remind them of the words of Sir Khizr Hayat Tiwana, who observed in January, 1975, a week before his death: Some kind of new geo-socio-political order would emerge in the subcontinent which would transcend the artificial 1947 Partition.
Mercifully there have been not a few Punjabis of vision endeavouring to build bridges of understanding. The latest is a trust headed by Pratap Singh Gill, former Governor of Goa. He has been trying to renew friendship and foster social exchange through a network of well-meaning persons on both sides of the border. For octogenarian Arjan Singh, an elder of Jatti Umrah village (to which Mian Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, belonged) who organised Akhand Paths whenever Sharif had been in trouble, the misunderstanding is between the governments and not the people. We believe through our efforts, things will improve. Who knows, the two countries may unite. Dont we still have the same culture and traditions?
Unite we may or may not, but we must learn to live in amity like good neighbours. The spirit of Punjabiat can certainly work this miracle. We must redeem Sir Khizr Hayat Tiwanas dream:
Those of you who do not belong to my generation will live to see Punjabi identity overcome the effects of the religious divide of 1947 and enjoy the fruits of a prosperous and happy Punjab which transcends the limitations of a geographical map.
To my mind the main challenge of the Punjabis in the next millennium is to undo the menace of Partition, to tie the Punjabi-speaking people together with the silken thread of Punjabiat whether they live in East Punjab, West Punjab or abroad in the UK, the USA or elsewhere.
We must redeem Sir Khizr Hayat Tiwanas dream:
Those of you who do not belong to my generation will live to see Punjabi identity overcome the effects of the religious divide of 1947 and enjoy the fruits of a prosperous and happy Punjab which transcends the limitations of a geographical map.
Fighting menace of tobacco
DR GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, figure in the list of 100 most powerful women of the world and her visit to New Delhi coincided with the raging debate on the Women Reservation Bill, seeking to ensure 33 per cent representation for the weaker sex in the legislature. It was also, incidentally, the turn of the millennium when she landed in the Union Capital. The occasion for Dr Brundtlands visit was a three-day international conference on global tobacco control law but little did she know of the rising women power in India. Nor did anybody try to apprise her of the powerful women lib movement building in the sub-continent. How glad would she have been had she known the strides Indian women have been making?
Known to be a tough and efficient politician, Dr Brundtland was the first-ever woman Prime Minister of Norway as far back as February, 1981. Even though she was formidable, her rule was occasionally interrupted by mostly male opposition leaders having little mass base; so similar to the Indian scenario. She held the post until October of the same year and fell prey to male chauvinism. A determined woman, as she is, Dr Brundtland regained the position in 1986. She remained Prime Minister until 1989. She returned to the post for the third time in 1990 and earned the sobriquet a master survivor from both her supporters and opponents.
A trained medical person, a physician, 60-year-old Dr Brundtlands first love is not politics but social service internationally. She has acquired the stature of a global reformist, evincing lot of interest in environmental issues, the menace of tobacco, the polio problem and infant care. She is a strong advocate of breast feeding, having breast fed her four children. As Secretary-General of the WHO, her efforts are to ensure that all infants and young children have access to breast milk and that all mothers are enabled to breast feed. So much so that the organisation is contemplating policies to safeguard the protection of breast feeding for the majority.
Dr Brundtland has a long association with the United Nations and was a serious contender for the top post of Secretary-General even when she was Norways Prime Minister in 1991. But luck did not favour her Boutros Ghali of Egypt was chosen to replace Javier Perez de Ceullar. Her report Our Common Future as Chairperson of a UN commission on environmental issue has been a landmark document.
Her latest initiative to evolve an international framework convention on tobacco control has been globally lauded. According to WHO figures, tobacco, smoking particularly, is responsible for four million deaths every year world-wide. The figure, if the tobacco habit is not checked, may go up to ten million in three decades. Also shockingly, 70 per cent of the deaths occur in the developing countries. Lots of young people are going to start smoking and they are going to die from it, Dr Brundtland says.
Her call to the young smokers is to take a giant step forward and leave the pack behind with the reminder that those who give up tobacco in their early thirties enjoy a life expectancy similar to the people who never smoked. Her advice to those who have been burning their lungs and dying for years is to take to cost-effective treatments that is now available. They include nicotine replacement medicines such as nicotine gum, patches, nasal spray and inhalers as well as non-nicotine medicines such a bupropion. These medicines double the chances of the chronic addicts giving up smoking.
Admitting that giving up smoking is not an easy task, she says: we know that nicotine is powerfully addictive, and all of us know people who have tried to give up smoking, only to find themselves drawn back to it a few months later. This is a challenge to all of us. But worst is the case of those who believe tobacco does no harm. A recent survey in a large developing country reveals that two-third of smokers mistakenly believe that smoking does little or no harm; few are interested in quitting, and fewer still have successfully quit. They have to be motivated to give up the suicide notion.
The WHO Secretary-General is not quite happy with anti-tobacco consumption measures taken by India and feels that the country need not wait for the finalisation of the framework convention on tobacco control which may take three to four years time.
The Government in the meanwhile, can tighten the regulation on tobacco advertisements and increase the taxes on tobacco products. Experience has shown that increase in taxes tend to reduce tobacco consumption and the young particularly are susceptible to hike in cigarette price. She is, however, appreciative that a country like India will have to take into account various aspects like employment of those engaged in the tobacco industry while checking tobacco consumption.
Besides tobacco, the WHO
Secretary-General is all set to end polio. The WHO is
committed to register the last case in polio by the end
of the year 2000. But India is the biggest stumbling
block, accounting for as many as 4320 of the 6,349 polio
cases registered in 1998. India is considered by the WHO
the only existing source for type II polio virus with
transmission specially intense in UP and Bihar.
FACED with the threat of noise and nonsense in the clubs around us in Thiruvananthapuram doing their millennium bash, my wife and I came away to Chennai for a quiet week before the New Year. But the hijack lay over our minds like a blanket of gloom. Watching the news on television every hour was painful, until on the 31st afternoon came the end of the drama and we spent a quiet evening with friends on the roof garden of their fourth-floor flat. By then I was mentally exhausted and went to bed a little before midnight when fireworks began to light up the sky. Apart from the noise of crackers here and there, the streets of Chennai seemed unusually quiet.
The Hindu of January 1 has a letter from one Jyotirmoyananda of Chennai. He says: At the dawn of the new millennium, here is food for thought, particularly to our national leaders and those of all other countries. A solution to the problems of the world lies basically in the individuals moral and spiritual life......In the name of secularism let not our national leaders deprive the younger generation of moral and spiritual values.
We have heard this kind of preaching a thousand times before. These platitudes dont need to be proved, so our Swamijis are not in danger of being contradicted. But I would like to ask: will the spiritual life banish poverty? Will it remove illiteracy? Will it stop hijacking?
The problem with this world is that one mans spiritual meat is anothers poison. Otherwise people wouldnt be demolishing mosques in order to build temples. It is spiritual pursuit that brought this government of ours to power. That is why they are not able to concentrate on secular matters like literacy, drinking water and public hygeine. They are not focused on issues of importance. Their priorities are wrong. And while they are concerned about Y2K, they are looking back to a mythical era of peace, harmony and prosperity.
I dont know of a single spiritual leader (self-styled) who has condemned the government for turning the nation into a nuclear weapon state. Why? It may be because too many of our saffron-clad leaders want to be on the right side of power, whether they like to admit it or not.
People like Jyotirmoyananda of Chennai are safe in their private worlds away from practical politics and economic systems, problems of defence, science and technology. He is not concerned with globalisation or imperialism, exploitation or social oppression. He is above all these. But intellectuals around the world are trying to grapple with the problems that the modern scientific and technological world has brought to billions of people at all stages of development.
In a recent article in Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris, its Director, Ignacio Ramonet, wrote: Globalisation aims to conquer markets rather than nation-states. The interests of this modern power lie not in the conquest of territory as in the days of invasion and colonialism but in the appropriation of wealth. The conquest goes hand in hand with considerable destruction. Whole industries have been wiped out in every region of the world. The result has been social suffering mass unemployment, underemployment, precarious employment and exclusion. Fifty million unemployed in Europe, one billion unemployed and underemployed in the world as a whole. We are now witnessing the over-exploitation of men, women and even more scandalously children, 300 million of them, in conditions of unprecedented brutality....
A new kind of euphoria is being built up by the manufacturers of dreams while they ignore the stupendous problems that lie immediately ahead and beyond. Many new kinds of dangers are already with us, such as organised crime, terrorism worldwide, mafia networks, large-scale corruption, new and seemingly incurable diseases. Religion, while it offers remedies for all the worlds ills is, for the most part, the source of them. And pollution and nuclear proliferation threaten our very existence.
There is very little
cause for jubilation at this dawn of the new century.
Neither in India nor in the rest of the world do I see
leaders who have the vision or capacity to deal with the
dangers that loom over us. They can only see as far as
their own political survival.
Classical method of input collection
AS days pass, more information is trickling out on what happened on the day of the now infamous hijack incident. On that day, December 24 to be precise, the top brass of the police in the country were attending a function at Vigyan Bhawan organised by the Intelligence Bureau. The Home Minister, Mr L K Advani, was also present as were some chiefs of central police organisations who were unaware of the hijack which had already occurred. Then by the time the crisis management group (CMG) assembled at Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan, which houses the Civil Aviation Ministry, more than an hour had passed after the incident.
While the CMG was struggling to get in touch with Amritsar airport, it was discovered that leave alone a sensitive frontline airport like Amritsar, there was no hotline between the CMG centre at Delhi and major airports of the country. The telephone numbers available had changed but in most cases they were not updated. In fact, when efforts were on to contact the Director-General of Police of Punjab it was discovered that his cellular phone number was not readily available. The police control room in Punjab could not help too and finally it was acquired by sending across a Home Ministry personnel.
Another interesting facet that came to light was that even in the days of hi-tech communication, it was classical methods of intelligence gathering that worked. Apart from the above incident, the efficacy of this system was proved when Mr Ajay Singh, a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs got a call from a constable who was posted in Air Traffic Control, Lucknow. Mr Ajay Singh, who personally knew many people in the State was informed of the hijack by this constable. His call from an STD telephone booth at Amausi airport came before the news was flashed by news networks. Mr Ajay Singh, in turn informed the Foreign Secretary.
Health freak Minister
Is the Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mr Murasoli Maran, a health freak? Well that is the impression he gave recently at a meeting of captains of industry from India and abroad in the capital last week. Addressing the annual Partnership Summit of the CII, which was attended among others by the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Mr Mike Moore, the Minister took the opportunity to talk at length about the problems faced by developing countries at the last Seattle conference. Mr Maran said he had several sleepless nights in Seattle, where one saw the world upside down. While developing countries were pleading for freer trade, developed countries were seeking Trojan horses to hide their protectionist intentions, he thundered.
Suddenly realising that the WTO chief was also sitting among the audience, Mr Maran advised Mr Moore to ensure that developing countries dont spend sleepless nights anymore on the WTO agenda. Also, Mike our spending sleepless nights is bad for your health too, the Minister said in a friendly tone.
Another SPG chief goes to Germany
After the turn of his predecessor, the SPG chief Mr M R Reddy is scheduled to serve in the Indian mission in Germany.
Mr Reddy, who will be replaced by Mr T.K. Mitra as the SPG chief towards the end of this month, is tipped to be the Minister, Counsellor, in the Indian mission at Berlin, Germany.
While the government has already appointed Mr Mitra as the new SPG chief, it has been decided that he would assist the outgoing chief till the end of this month, when all the functions relating to Republic Day would be over. After all it will not be prudent to change the chief of the crack police force responsible for the protection of the Prime Minister at this crucial time.
Incidentally, Dr Subramaniam who was responsible for setting up the SPG too headed for Bonn after end of his tenure in the SPG.
The effort of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to gain maximum publicity for its Minister, Mr George Fernandes, during his recent visit to Japan, the first attempt to open a defence dialogue with that country, came to almost a naught due to the last minute invitation sent out to the media.
Although the ministers programme to Japan and his itinerary had been planned well in advance, the invitation to the media went out the day the minister flew to Tokyo and that too to just a select band of ten newspapers and agencies. However, of the ten, just four could catch the flight to Tokyo as the others politely declined due to the last minute invitation. Apparently, the Ministry decided at the last minute to take the press party to Japan. The Additional Principal Information Officer (Defence) was told only the night before the minister left that a media team was also included. The Additional PIO went about informing the selected group about the trip, but none were forthcoming as the invitation was too late. He also went about inviting the regional papers when the mainline newspapers declined, but to no effect. Finally, the media savvy Defence Minister had to be contented with just four mediamen in toe in Japan. His plans to gain publicity on this historical trip came unstuck due to this last minute planning. It would be better that the MoD made such plans well in advance, if it had to cater to the publicity of its minister.
Pongal with a difference
The Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Mr Murasoli Maran, does not believe in an ostentatious lifestyle. It is therefore not surprising that he throws few parties. However, scribes in the capital were in for a surprise when they received on invitation from him for lunch at the top-end India Habitat Centre. Since the lunch was hosted a couple of days before the Tamil festival of Pongal, it was naturally presumed that the party was to celebrate the occasion. The menu was however, a let down for many who had presumed that there will be a delightful Madrasi spread on the occasion. There was the usual buffet spread, which can be had in any official banquet. The Minister later clarified that he had hosted the lunch for the scribes for the first time after being sworn in and it was his way of wishing them a happy New Year. As for the Pongal treat, he promptly extended an invitation to his house. The Minister obviously does not mix business with pleasure.
WE learn from an Associated Press telegram that the Government of the United Provinces has decided to abolish the Publicity Department attached to its Secretariat with effect from March next.
We are sure this decision of the Government of our neighbouring Province will come as a most unpleasant surprise to the Punjab bureaucrats who have set their hearts on giving this province the blessings of official publicity.
The obvious question which those who are sceptical about the virtues of official publicity will be disposed to ask is: In what respects does the Punjab differ from the United Provinces? The answer is equally obvious.
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